Weeping for Charlottesville

One of the practical applications of the Christian walk is found in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Today there is a family weeping for the loss of their daughter, a victim of the manifestation of one person’s hatred toward others.  It is, of course, easy to simply condemn the white supremacists who organized the protest, and indeed we should.  Thinking that one race is elevated, or that another is below other races is anti-biblical at its core–refusing to acknowledge that we are all of one flesh, are all from the same original parents and all created in the image of God with the inherent dignity that entails.  So Bereans join the condemnation of such anti-biblical thinking that argues for racial superiority.

Yet surely we must reflect more deeply, since were this particular manifestation of wickedness gone tomorrow, we would still have problems.  In more technical terms, we must try to get to “root cause” of the issue.  Partisans almost immediately jumped to the conclusion that President Trump is at least partially to blame, since he has not strongly enough condemned elements of the alt-right movement which helped support his election.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it,” Mayor Mike Signer (D) said on CNN. “I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in America today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president.”  “Look at the campaign he ran,” Signer said.

In the WSJ today, the editors blamed Charlottesville as just another example of the fruits of “identity politics.”

Yet the focus on Mr. Trump is also a cop-out because it lets everyone duck the deeper and growing problem of identity politics on the right and left. The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.  That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

Yet I would argue for a deeper root cause, which is what we began our discussion with–the root cause of these animosities is that we are broken people living in a broken world, and that because of our sin we want to elevate ourselves, often by putting others down.  We fail to see the image of God in those we oppose.  It is hugely important to see this, lest we fall directly into the trap of those we condemn.  Many condemning the white supremacists do so in part to help them reassure themselves of their own moral superiority:  “I’m not not like them.”  Yet that attitude, which is at least a danger to all of us, can place us in the position of the pharisee condemning the gentile, “Thank you God I’m not like him.”

So today we need to weep with the family who lost their daughter. And we need to weep for the family of the young man who now faces murder charges.  And we even need to weep for the young man who drove the car into the crowd, as well as the many other white supremacists who don’t recognize the source of their brokenness, or the solution found in Jesus Christ.  And we need to boldly and repeatedly make the truth of the inherent dignity of every human being known to all.  The root cause of Charlottesville is not rhetoric, but is found in an understanding of the brokenness of each of Adam’s children.

38 thoughts on “Weeping for Charlottesville”

  1. Jeff,
    Thanks for this post, seeing all people as created in the image of God is an essential building block of how we understand ourselves, others and the world and policy flowing from our worldview.

    This weeks Saturday Essay in the WSJ is: “The liberal Crackup”. It explains identity politics and its effect on the political left in the US.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-liberal-crackup-1502456857

  2. It is ironic. These thugs were ostensibly there to protest Charlottesville’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But if Lee were alive today, he would echo what he consistently told his soldiers and fellow southerners after the war:

    “…it is the duty of every citizen, in the present condition of the Country, to do all in his power to aid in the restoration of peace and harmony.”

    If these people truly wished to honor the legacy of Robert E. Lee, they would never have done what they did. He would be appalled that his statue was used as an excuse for reprehensible behavior.

    1. DJT should have said it two days ago.

      His words mean little now.

      After all, he has no problem condemning Merck CEO’s, SNL, and Hollywood types on Twitter using the strongest possible words. Yet it took him two days (!!) to figure out to do the right thing, after pressure from just about every major conservative? And that’s leadership?

      Lee does not deserve a statue. Never did. Ironically, he probably would have agreed.

      1. Correction: His words mean little to YOU now. But then nothing he ever says means anything to you anyway. If he had said two days ago what he said today, you would still have taken issue with it somehow.

        As for Lee, we will just have to agree to disagree on that. Lee might have agreed with you that he didn’t deserve a statue, but not for the same reasons.

  3. Also, just a word on Trump: Just a few minutes ago, he specifically condemned white supremecy, neo-nazis, and the KKK, referred to them as “criminals and thugs” and called racism “evil”. I cannot think of any stronger words that he could use but no matter what he says, someone will always find something wrong with it.

      1. I will grant it is a fair point, I would have preferred he specifically called them out then, but could I ask a question: In his first statement, he condemned all racist and bigotry. Since “all” logically includes “white” as part of it, do you not think that this quibbling over his exact wording is just a bit superfluous. Can we just be happy that he DID say it and move on, rather than making an issue of WHEN he said it?

      2. He condemned hate at first. From all sides. He placed someone who opposes Nazis on the same level as someone who would ram a car into a crowd.

  4. “Thinking that one race is elevated, or that another is below other races is anti-biblical at its core–refusing to acknowledge that we are all of one flesh, are all from the same original parents and all created in the image of God with the inherent dignity that entails. So Bereans join the condemnation of such anti-biblical thinking that argues for racial superiority.”

    If this were fifty years ago, I would have expected a different interpretation. And those who disagreed would have been labeled as godless communists (actually, communists supported racial equality back when it was radical to do so, so there was much truth to that, lol).

    Just so you know, your interpretation is a MODERN interpretation within Christianity. Indeed, you are reading your Bible with kind, somewhat egalitarian, somewhat Western glasses. Christians were about the last people to figure out that white supremacy is a bad thing. Indeed, much of the white supremacist underpinnings of this nation, esp in the South, was based on a certain interpretation of certain Scriptures (Curse of Ham, in particular).

    God did command that certain ethnic peoples were to be wiped out, including pregnant mothers and infants. I know Christians like to sweep those Scriptures under the carpet and just can’t stand it when those passages get exposed. Too bad.

    If you look to the Bible for clarity regarding race, you are going to have to conjure up what is not there. That said, I am glad to see that Bereans apparently do not support white supremacy (at least explicitly).

    I wish the Bereans took the next step and argued that MLK Day should be a holiday at Cedarville U, where it is at other Christian campuses. But I am not holding my breath, as least as long as the racially challenged Southern Baptists have their thumbs squarely on the head of the institution.

      1. You are a defender of the Confederacy, as I recall from two summers ago.

        Do you really think I care what you think about race?

        If you are tired, take a nap! :-)

      2. Jeff, I can assure you that I absolutely do not think you care about what I think on race. In fact, I am sure that you do not care what I think about anything. I would just point out, though, that it is possible for someone to argue that the Confederacy had a constitutional right of secession and criticize the way Lincoln handled it while still abhorring its stance of slavery and race.

    1. “Just so you know, your interpretation is a MODERN interpretation within Christianity. Indeed, you are reading your Bible with kind, somewhat egalitarian, somewhat Western glasses. ”
      Galatians 3:27-29 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
      We can argue all day about what people said and when, but scripture is quite clear. All mankind has, since Adam, been in rebellion against God. Yet God in His mercy called out Abraham and made a people, such that there were two kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles. Now with Christ, there are still two kinds of people, those that are “In Christ” and those that are not. Yet the ethnic divide is completely removed, as Ephesians 2 makes clear. It’s not my interpretation that matters, as if scripture were hieroglyphics, but the only question is what scripture says. And it is clear that we are all equally created in the image of God, and now In Christ there is no distinction between any people group.

      1. In terms of salvation, sure.

        In terms of social standing, of course not.

        Picking one cherry out of the batch again, aren’t we (while once again ignoring the rest of the verses that affirm a contrary point of view)?

        Paul the apostle not only accept slavery, but accepted slavery when the slaveowners were cruel to the slaves. That is Scriptural.

        Would you like me to cite chapter and verse?

      2. In terms of salvation, sure. In terms of social standing, of course yes.

        Read Philemon. Paul told Philemon, the slave owner, that he should treat his slave as a brother. He did not accept slavery at all and why you persist in this slanderous and false lie time after time only you can really know. Paul never accepts slavery. Rather he recognized that slavery was a reality and gives regulations for good treatment by both masters and servants and reveals they are equal under Christ. But this is a very far cry from acceptance of it, let alone endorsement of it which, for some reason, seems to be what you insist we must accept about it. There were very practical reasons, considering the reality of the time, why a more direct condemnation of slavery was not given. But you seriously need to stop spreading the falsehood that the Bible endorses the institution. It does not.

    2. Jeff Adams,

      For someone who professes to be a born-again believer, which I sincerely hope not only you but all may become even though we know not all will, you have some very flagrant interpretations of Scripture. Paul never promoted slavery. What he promoted was a loving relationship between people which in its essence would undermine slavery at its foundation.

      MLK day may not be taken off at CU, but they have a special chapel and events throughout the day for it, very similar to Veterans Day there. The only holidays CU takes off are Labor Day (Cedarville is the birthplace of one of the key founders of Labor Day), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Hardly a substantive attack there.

      1. Just a side note, my position on race is simple. We are all one race descended from the same two ancestors, Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:27). If everyone could see others as being made in the image of God and love each other, things would be alot better. Sadly those who reject God also reject His creating us. Those who believe humans simply evolved by chance cannot possibly have the same view as those who see others in God’s image.

  5. “Correction: His words mean little to YOU now. But then nothing he ever says means anything to you anyway. If he had said two days ago what he said today, you would still have taken issue with it somehow.”

    Nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

    If he had come out and condemned white supremacists and their ilk two days, after one of their own killed a counter-protestor, I would have been pleased, to say the least. But he didn’t. And David Duke and Stormfront applauded him for his non-response.

    When are you going to learn that principle counts for more than politics?

    For the record, I was so disappointed at President Clinton (for his sexual infidelity) that when he came to my place of work to campaign for his wife back in 2008, I refused to attend, even though my colleagues not only talked one-on-one with him, but had pictures taken with him!

    Having a picture with me shaking hands with a former president might have been nice to have on my mantle, but not at the expense of principle.

    1. You do realize that I agree he should have done so immediately? I simply have chosen to focus on being glad he has now done so than dwell on the fact that he didn’t do it as quickly as I would have liked. I prefer “better late than never” to your apparent “late equals never”.

  6. “…because of our sin we want to elevate ourselves, putting others down. We fail to see the image of God in those we oppose.” Well said. It is far too simple to decry white supremacists as a means of celebrating our own virtue. It is also far too easy to narrate the actions of “right-uniters” in Charlottesville as distant, individual atrocities in which we bear no complicity. “I see *your* loss and error,” we say, “and I weep with you.”

    Frankly, such mourning seems pretty thin to me. What would it look like to “weep with” white supremacists as mutual beneficiaries of the historical ideology they (inconveniently for us) continue to proclaim? What’s the appropriate way to weep with parents/children whose inherent dignity is (still) publicly defiled, when we’re birthed into immunity from the same? What if our weeping with every side of #Charlottesville was accompanied by a penetrating inventory of where we enable and benefit from the culture that keeps on generating such debacles?

    Events like those in Charlottesville seem to both demand and defy appropriate response; I respect your earnest effort to craft one here. But I wonder at how your seeing God in others and seeking root causes seems to end with letting us all off the hook. I think Christ followers can do better than this, and it seems many are: http://www.franpratt.com/litanies/2017/8/12/litany-for-charlottesville-va. I wonder what you think?

    1. I don’t think Dr. Haymond intended anything he said to qualify as letting anybody “off the hook”. This may sound cliche, but the proper response from Christians is simply to obey the words of Jesus Christ who commanded “love thy neighbor as thyself”.

  7. So Trump has changed his stance now. It’s back to being mostly the counter protestors fault. And most of the protestors are actually good people.

    How did this clown get elected?

      1. DJT did not say “most” people there were good people. He said “not all” of them were bad.

        Do good people show up at neo-Nazi rallies?

        DJT made that clear that that is what he thinks.

        Regarding DV’s other point, DJT got elected in large part because so-called Christians turned up at the polls to vote for him. Many of them are by no means true believers; sadly, many have deluded themselves that they are.

        I call them Matthew 7:23 Christians, sometimes. Most people don’t get the reference, so I haven’t done that all that often.

        Sad fact is that many of the Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists in Charlottesville over the weekend would consider themselves Christians, and would consider their actions as conducive towards reestablishing the order that God originally established.

        If we let them take away the good name of Christ and misappropriate it, then we might as well forget about the future of the faith.

      2. Jeff, once again you are twisting words to more fit your personal argument. What Trump said was that some who showed up to protest the statue removal were fine people. Ones who were not protesting violently or there to promote racism. Believe it or not it is possible to respect Robert E Lee personally and certain values of the Confederacy without being a racist or in favor of slavery. Many who fought for the South opposed slavery. I am fairly confident we will see Lee and Jackson in heaven along with many others who fought for the South. Are you advocating that violence is acceptable against hate groups? That’s not Christlike. White supremacy or racism of any kind is a sin and disrespectful cause every individual is made in God’s image. It’s not only a sin against the person but God Himself. So don’t try to hurl insults at me. Defending Donald Trump does not equal defending racism. As for you, Jeff, read Matthew 7:4-5 before accusing others of not being true Christians. Many things you say about Scripture make me question your claim.

      3. “DJT got elected in large part because so-called Christians turned up at the polls to vote for him.”

        So the fact that Hillary Clinton took her “blue wall” for granted and as a result enough voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania switched sides, many of whom likely voted for Obama twice, had practically nothing to do with it?

        The KKK and neo-Nazi’s did not elect Donald Trump. They were not even close to being a factor in the results. And even if most of them identify in some way as Christian (and I would agree, they would be so-called Christians) that does not mean that most Christians (whether they voted Trump or not) must therefore also be racist.

    1. Ok all, we’re getting well down the path to uncivil. Let’s not let the spirit of Charlottesville permeate the Berean blog; thank you.

  8. Daniel

    Good people do not attend rallies filled with torch-carrying, Seig Heil-saying white supremacists and neo-Nazis, some of whom beat African-Americans with metal poles and run over people with their vehicles.

    Not only that, good people don’t defend those who do. Good people rather condemn such despicable actions and don’t use tragedies to score political points attacking liberals (as in “both sides” do it, when both sides clearly DO NOT).

    Unfortunately, there are too many people who are not good. I try to avoid them, and try to have my children avoid them.

    Defending Donald Trump’s offensive comments are tantamount to defending racism. Thanks for making it quite clear where you stand.

    1. “Defending Donald Trump’s offensive comments are tantamount to defending racism. Thanks for making it quite clear where you stand.”

      Trump’s comments were not racist. He denounced racism, Naziism, white supremecy, etc. of any kind. Some people were probably there to protest that did not know these other whackjob groups were going to be there. I am condemning, not defending the racism involved.

      I made it quite clear where I stand, Jeff. You can misinterpret my words but can’t change my heart.

  9. Jeff, it is not scoring political points when both sides did commit violence. Obviously the vast majority of the violence was on the part of the racists, but not 100% of it. Therefore it is not racist to say that, yes, more than one side was involved in the violence. Trump condemned the despicable actions. He did NOT defend those who committed those actions in any way. His comments certainly needed improvement, but his comments were NOT racist and pointing that out is NOT defending racism. Daniel made it quite clear where he stands when he said “White supremacy or racism of any kind is a sin and disrespectful cause every individual is made in God’s image. It’s not only a sin against the person but God Himself.”

  10. ““DJT got elected in large part because so-called Christians turned up at the polls to vote for him.”

    So the fact that Hillary Clinton took her “blue wall” for granted and as a result enough voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania switched sides, many of whom likely voted for Obama twice, had practically nothing to do with it?

    The KKK and neo-Nazi’s did not elect Donald Trump”

    I never said that. Please do not strawman what I wrote.

    I said that Christians (evangelical Christians, actually) were the ones whose votes put him in the White House.

    That point is not one of conjecture. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/05/a-match-made-in-heaven/521409/

    1. If that is what you meant, please be more specific then. In the post I responded to you said that Christians were the ones who put him in the White House. You then said that the neo-Nazis and KKK members identify as Christian. I apologize if the implication I took from that was the wrong one, but I was not attempting to strawman you at all.

    1. The article has some interesting points in it. But I fail to see how this article’s substance informs us on whether Trump’s comments were offensive or not. I guess my hangup here is that I fail to see why it is so horrible for Trump to say “both sides did it” when there is evidence that there were a few instances where violence did come from the counter-protesters. If Trump was factually wrong that “both sides did it”, then of course I would fully agree with you and would be immensely offended by it. But he was not factually wrong on that point. so, respectfully, I can’t agree his remarks were offensive.

      And please, understand that I get it. I know that you already, even before all of this happened, believed Trump was racist, or at least sympathetic to them and their causes. We all have our confirmation biases and many times they are logically constructed ones. It’s part of who we are. We, which definitely includes me, just need to work on giving each other the benefit of the doubt when these apparently unbridgeable disagreements arrive.

  11. Trump’s comments were far from racist. He simply placed blame equally on both sides. Protestor and counter protestors were both using violence. The Bible doesn’t condone violence at all. It is a tragedy that a person was killed and Dr. Haymond is right that we should pray for the victims but that does not excuse violence done by counter protestors.

  12. I think too many people are quick to blame Trump for everything. It is sad that we still have this kind of racism in our world today, but I agree with your post that sin is the root cause. We are all fallen and we have to stay humble and pray that God will help us and others to do the right thing.

  13. I completely agree with your stance on the Charlattesville tragedy. It was terrible to see someone do such a thing to the girl and to the others who were injured. I do not believe that politics caused this ordeal. Race relations were no better and might have been even worse under President Obama. But thanks to Trump saying some things that were not completely “politically correct,” it has lead to him being blamed for these downfalls. We need to stop blaming politics, and start blaming the people who hate African Americans and those who tear down government property.

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